TLSS - Teaching and Learning Support Service


Blog on university teaching.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Teaching and Learning Support Service (TLSS). Blog entries are written in the preferred language of the blogger, which is why some contents may appear in English on the French version of the TLSS website, and vice versa. We do not translate and we do not correct spelling errors our bloggers’ blog posts that are considered as opportunities to exchange and create a constructive dialogue on teaching and learning. However, they should not be viewed, in any way, as resources or recommendations from the TLSS.

Use of electronic devices in the classroom: Impact on student learning

Do you feel challenged, or are you bothered, by students who use their computers or smartphones in class for things other than learning what you are teaching that day? In his latest blog, Jean-Pascal Beaudoin, an educational developer at the Centre for University Teaching, shares tips and resources on this common reality. 

Books and articles have been written about the use of electronic devices in class and its impact on learning. Even if tempting, banning such devices might not to be the solution. One of the recommendations seems to be: “If you can’t beat them, join them!” 

Do you want to know more about how to decrease distractions and multi-tasking in the classroom; how to optimize note taking and exam results; and how to successfully manage the use of electronic devices in the learning environment? The Centre for University teaching (CUT) has a few resources to recommend:

In his March 13th, 2017 The Chronicle of Higher Education blog The Distracted Classroom, James M. Lang provides the following insight: There are a lot of ways in which students can be distracted from learning, and electronic devices is only one of them. Banning devices is not the solution. And it impacts students in need of academic accommodations. We should help students set goals that have meaning to them so that they can focus better. They should practise blocking out distractions: It relates to cognitive control, or lack thereof. As educators, how can we help students control distractions?

In her March 31st, 2017 TLSS guest lecture on Teaching with technologies…, Tanya Noel suggests in her handout the following tips:

  • “Share and discuss (the following) with students:
    • “The effects of distractions and myths (around) multitasking;
    • Effective note-taking strategies;
    • Resources to support students’ appropriate use of technologies;
    • Civility and (expected) behaviour in the classroom (co-developed with students)”.
  • Prepare and design lessons accordingly:
    • “Develop activities aligned with intended learning outcomes (incorporating active learning methods);
    • Determine if and where technology would add value (in and out of class); and
    • Consider integrating ‘technology breaks’ in class.”
    • We would also add: be as passionate and enthusiastic as possible in the way you communicate, walk the room, ask questions to students in different sections of the room, smile and make eye contact; vary activities, ask students to discuss and apply what they learn, research information on the web while solving problems or critiquing a topic, etc.
    • And, by consulting the resources below, you will find information to support your conversations with students, your planning and delivery of content, and how to efficiently use technology to enhance learning in the classroom.

To discuss this matter further, to share perspectives or to inquire about the feasibility of strategies you have in mind, you are more than welcome to meet with one of our educational developers. For a free appointment contact us at .


3 new books available at the CUT:

  1. Gazzaley A, Rosen LD. 2016. The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World. The MIT Press.
  2. Daniel Levitin. 2015. The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. Allen Lane Editors.
  3. Newport C. 2016. Deep Work: Rules for Focuses Success in a Distracted World. Grand Central Publishing.

6 articles available online or at the university library:

  1. Sana F, Weston T, Cepeda NJ. 2013. Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers. Computer & Education Journal. 62:24-31.
  2. Mueller PA, Oppenheimer DM. 2014. The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. Psychological Science. 25:1159-1168.
  3. Payne Carter S, Greenberg K, Walker M. 2016. The Impact of Computer Usage on Academic Performance: Evidence from a Randomize Trial at the United States Military Academy. SEII Discussion Paper #2016.02. May 2016.
  4. Ravizza SM, Hambrick DZ, Fenn KM. 2014. Non-academic internet use in the classroom is negatively related to classroom learning regardless of intellectual ability. Computer & Education Journal. 78:109-114.
  5. Barry S, Murphy K, Drew S. 2015. From deconstructive misalignment to constructive alignment: Exploring student uses of mobile technologies in university classrooms. Computer & Education Journal. 81:202-210
  6. Samson P. 2010. Deliberate engagement of laptops in large lecture classes to improve attentiveness and engagement. Computer & Education Journal. 20:1-19.

Enjoy the readings!

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